Indigenous Participation in Clean Energy Activities in Canada: Passive Participation or ‘Community Energy’?
The trend toward bottom-up energy action through community clean energy projects has important implications for climate change mitigation in both non-Indigenous and Indigenous communities. As a result of a literature review, this paper defines “community energy” as activities – including initiatives with a variety of functions such as generation, retail, distribution and demand – that involve a high degree of community participation, ownership and control, where collective benefits are shared throughout the community (Hoicka and MacArthur, 2018, pp. 6). Many clean energy projects involving Indigenous participation exist in Canada with various forms of ownership and structures (Indigenous Clean Energy Social Enterprise, 2019; Hoicka and MacArthur, 2018) and it is likely, that those projects that meet the threshold of CE will make the best vehicles for reconciliation because the principles of CE and reconciliation align. This paper uses two secondary datasets by Indigenous Clean Energy Social Enterprise (2019) and Hoicka and MacArthur (2018) (the latter has been updated in the present study) to explore the Indigenous models of ownership and control of clean energy projects that exist in Canada and their potential link to reconciliation. This is believed to be a complete dataset of >1MW clean energy projects in Canada with Indigenous participation. It also parallels the models present in Indigenous communities with non-Indigenous communities. Additionally, the paper explores the aforementioned two datasets on clean energy projects involving Indigenous participation and a third secondary dataset by Wyse and Hoicka (2019), which is focused on local energy plans, along with some primary data to analyze the number and location of both projects and plans, the Indigenous groups (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) involved as well as their corresponding community types (off-grid/remote vs. grid-connected). A total of 198 active clean energy projects in Canada with Indigenous participation and 167 Local Energy Plans for Indigenous communities were identified. The majority of the Indigenous communities involved with both projects and plans were First Nations, grid-connected communities, with few Inuit and mixed Indigenous communities, and 0 Métis communities. For the projects, forms of ownership and control and corresponding structures are difficult to determine without significant additional research and analysis. The majority of the projects explored in this study are partnerships between Indigenous communities and non-Indigenous corporations, and there is a small number (6) that are fully Indigenous government-owned. Additionally, 1 energy co-operative was identified. The structures of these partnerships are largely unknown as this information was only available for 25 out of 198 projects in the datasets, but it is clear that structures can vary from majority Indigenous-ownership or 50/50 joint ventures, to minority Indigenous-ownership, for example. The inclusion or exclusion of all major Indigenous groups in Canada along with whether clean energy projects involving Indigenous communities reaches the off-grid, diesel-dependent communities that need it most also has important implications for reconciliation.